Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment – press statement on Citizen’s Assembly votes this weekend

Citizens’ Assembly Reflects Strong Support For Change

The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment has said today’s proceedings at the Citizens’ Assembly reflect the public’s strong desire for government to legislate to allow greater access to abortion.  However, the Coalition expressed concern at the voting process used during today’s meeting, saying it led to “unnecessary confusion” for Assembly members.

Commenting this evening (22.04.17), Ailbhe Smyth, Convenor of the Coalition, said: “In the first of this morning’s ballots, a resounding majority of Assembly members – 87 per cent – voted against retaining the Eighth Amendment in its entirety in our Constitution.

“In subsequent votes, the Assembly has recommended the Eighth Amendment be replaced to clearly state it is the business of the Oireachtas to legislate on abortion.

“Today’s voting in the Assembly’s tallies with opinion polls, which have consistently shown a majority of people support greater access to abortion and want the Government to demonstrate leadership and hold a referendum on this issue.

“The Eighth Amendment has been catastrophically problematic since it was inserted into the Constitution in 1983.  Until the Government faces up to its responsibility to introduce legislation to deal effectively with abortion, women in Ireland will continue to face serious risks.”

“A Convoluted Process”

Ms. Smyth said the voting system used during today’s Assembly meeting led to a lack of clarity for members.  “There were quite heated exchanges this afternoon, as some Assembly members expressed dissatisfaction with the process and said they had been unclear about the implications of their morning votes.”  she said.

“Ultimately, what the Assembly has recommended today will lead to repeal of the Eighth Amendment.  Their recommendation is to insert a new clause in its place that gives responsibility for legislating on the abortion to the Oireachtas – as should have always been the case.

“It’s not clear why Assembly members were forced to go through such a convoluted process today to arrive at a decision that was clear from the outcome of their first ballot this morning.  We feel that the members of the Assembly were subjected to unnecessary confusion throughout today’s proceedings.

“The potential negative effects of repealing the Eighth Amendment were emphasised, but at no point  were the potential benefits of repeal highlighted nor the international obligations Ireland has in relation to honouring and respecting  women’s human rights.

“The members of the Citizens’ Assembly are not constitutional lawyers.  They had a very difficult task, and we admire the dedication they showed in grappling with this issue.  What today’s proceedings highlighted – once again – is that this is a hugely complex area, best dealt with through clear legislation emanating from our elected representatives.”

Ms. Smyth noted that, tomorrow, the Assembly is due to engage in a further series of votes, aimed at identifying the shape any legislation on abortion should take, including – potentially – restrictions on access.

“We would have grave concerns at the idea of the Assembly pre-empting the legislative process by specifying the exact shape that any new law should take.” she said.


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